If you want to understand why so many Democrats believe it’s okay to circumvent Congress and let international agreements dictate environmental policies—well, other than their newfound respect for monocracy—you don’t have to look much farther than the new poll by Gallup.
Since 1989, there’s been no significant change in the public’s concern level over global warming. To put this in perspective, note that the most expensive public-relations campaign in history—one that includes most governmental agencies, a long list of welfare-sucking corporations, the public school system, the universities, an infinite parade of celebrities, think tanks, well-funded environmental groups and an entire major political party—has, over the past 25 years or so, increased the number of Democrats who “worry greatly” about global warming by a mere four percentage points.
During this era, they’ve gone from gentle nudging to stern warnings, to fearmongering, to conflating the predictive abilities of scientists with science itself, to launching ugly campaigns to shame and shut down anyone who deviates from liberal orthodoxy—which includes not only the existence of anthropogenic global warming, but an entire ideological framework that supposedly “addresses” the problem.
And considering the absurd amount of media this crusade continues to garner, its ineffectiveness is doubly amazing. The Government Accounting Office hasn’t been able to calculate the theoretical benefits of the billions we spend each year battling climate change (one theory: they don’t exist). Can one imagine how it difficult it would be to tabulate what hundreds of millions spent on indoctrination bought us? The return is pitiful. And completely foreseeable.
Why Climate-Change Alarmism Has Failed
One of the problems is the Watermelon Effect. Many Americans who might otherwise be inclined to worry about incremental man-made warming will ignore it because they have no interest in assuming all the ideological baggage that comes with this admission. Joining the Left on “climate change” means joining it on array of agenda items that are often incompatible with many Americans’ economic and political beliefs.
Environmentalism has always been leftist malware, infecting economic growth, the most nefarious of all things. You can flip though a Naomi Klein book or browse Grist—though, really, it’s implicit in most of the agenda—to understand how many archaic ideas about top-down control litter every corner of this philosophy. Put it this way: John Holdren, whose intellectual lineage can be directly traced to the ugliest strains of this movement, a man who believes that proliferation of human beings is destroying the planet, is our Science Czar in 2015. So even if global warming is real, I would prefer it.
Then, of course, there is a difference in believing climate change is real and believing that climate change is calamitous. All one needs to do is a quick cost-benefit analysis. Voters are willing to support a certain some level of environmental policy. They are “fairly concerned,” as Gallup points out. But if they truly believed the End of Days was approaching, they wouldn’t be living the lives they do. Perhaps they intuitively understand that people have a remarkable ability to adapt to change. When it comes to climate, it’s what humans have been doing for hundreds of thousands of years now.
Empirically speaking, we see, despite all the new wealth and new people, a far cleaner world. This is reflected in the Gallup poll, which finds that as the shrieking gets louder, Americans become more positive about the quality of their environment and less concerned about the threats. This makes sense, since our water and air—the aggregate emissions of pollutants has been in decline for 35 years—have become progressively cleaner since 1989. You can thank technological advances in efficiency brought on by competition, not solar farms, I’m afraid.
Plus, we’re not that scared anymore. As our environment improves, progressives are impelled to ratchet up the talk of catastrophic disasters. We perpetually hear about new threats that never seem to materialize (unless you actually believe every weather event is new to our generation and due to climate change). And as the fearmongering becomes more far-fetched, the accusations become more hysterical, and the deadlines for action keep being pushed right over the horizon, fewer people seem to really care.
Two Options for Democrats
So how do you win people over? I’m not sure. Shutting down debate doesn’t help, though. You’ll notice there is no debate, just a volley of allegations. Environmentalists attempt to destroy the careers of scientists who diverge from the consensus. If you’re a liberal who questions the constitutionality of the White House’s rule by edict, you’re oil-drenched sellout, too. The debate is over, even though there are a broad range of opinions among scientists about how dangerous climate change is, how much man has to do with it, and how we should deal with it. By declaring the conversation over, you’re done trying to convince anyone. If you’re an environmentalist, can you really afford to be doing that?
It depends, I guess. The static polls are a pretty devastating incitement of effectiveness of the environmental movement, yes. But it also speaks to the contention that environmental policies are a political winner for the Left. Ask yourself: when was the last time a candidate lost because he or she wasn’t gung ho enough about artificially inflating gas prices?
So if you haven’t been able to win over the public over in 25 years of intense political and cultural pressure, you are probably down to two options: You can revisit your strategy, open debate to a wide range of ideas, accept that your excited rhetoric works on a narrow band of the Americans (in any useful political sense), and live with the reality that most people have no interest in surrendering prosperity. Or, you can try to force people to do what you want. Democrats are going to give the latter another try.